If you look at the numbers, I think SMU still makes more sense
the schools have almost identical bar passage rates (SMU 88, WUSTL 90), but the big diference being....The Texas Bar is significantly harder than the Missouri Bar. Texas has 80% passage rate to Missouri's 88%. WUSTL educations their students 2% higher than the state's average while SMU performs 8% better. It seems to me that SMU is training attourney's better equipped to pass the Texas bar and succeed in Texas, if not better educated attourney's overall.
And regardless of the "options" of WUSTL, the fact is most graduates do indeed stay in Mizzou. Also, 98% of all graduates have a job with a median of 85000 from SMU(admittedly 100000 from WUSTL). But the fact that your wife has a pretty sucessful job in the area and if you would like to practice in Dallas, I dont think you should get scared about people saying that only the top SMU grads get the kind of jobs that they want. Unless you hear that from a Dallas employer, then I think the numbers speak for themself.
The bar passage logic used by this poster is idiotic. By his logic, St. Johns does a better job of educating their students than Fordham does. By his logic, Florida CoasTTTTal does a better job of educating their students than Florida State.
More importantly, using his logic, OP should be at Baylor and not SMU.
Even more foolish is his use of "employment" numbers. Anyone who knows about law school admissions knows that those numbers are pure puffery and only reflect the limited number of people who respond to the questionnaire.
In this case, the numbers do not at all speak for themselves.
Ok fine if you want to fault the numbers, here is a more objective view of the school choice...
If St. Johns has a higher bar passage rate than fordam, then yes they are doing a better job preparing their graduates, and if Florida Coastal has a better bar passage rate than Florida St. then quite frankly Florida St. should be ashamed. I dont think its idiotic to hold a school accountable to their bar passage rate, and go off more than just an obscure ranking system.
Also location figures promenently in the choice, if you want to practice in Dallas/Texas and you have a great scholarship to a very good school that is almost garunteed to get you a job in that city, in a city where your spouse is very established in her field...why would you go to a school that has no proven presence in the region in which you want to practice. Numbers aside, wouldnt you rather be taught by professors who are experts in preparing you for the types of legal issues you will encounter in your region?
Getting your foot in the door with local firms and employers is also a big issue. Dont you think that you would have more access to the firms in Texas if you went to schools in Texas? And also from what I have heard, SMU dominates the legal market in Dallas. Not only would you have more chance to explore your options IN THE REGION, but you would also have the advantage of not going highly into debt AS YOU START YOUR FAMILY. SMU is a great school with proven viablility in Dallas, WUSTL is a great school as well, but not with proven viablility in the region in which the OP wants to practice plus it will be a lot cheaper.
When they are losing jobs to Fordham grads, St. Johns students don't take much solace in their superior bar passage rates. Bar passage rates don't matter. If OP is smart enough to be in the top 15% percent required for BigLaw from SMU, he's not going to be the type that fails the bar.
Also, most good law schools don't teach "local" law. You really just learn how to apply a legal skillset to a given problem. You learn the local law over time once you start to practice.
Yes, SMU does well in Dallas. But it also floods the Dallas market with all their grads. Many of the students there will have the same ideas on getting Dallas BigLaw, thus allowing the firms to cherry-pick the best students. The people outside top 20% at schools like SMU are basically screwed in terms of landing that first job.
You are right about debt though. It's a factor that each person has to weigh.